Forget Al Jazeera International and its new English-language
channel. At least for the time being. The BBC is the latest to try and
make it into the round-the-clock cable news market in the US.
for years the BBC World Service has been available in the US, but
usually only 30-minute programmes mostly carried by stations of the
American public broadcaster, PBS. That's excluding the entertainment
programmes which are a mainstay — and big money raisers — of many
public television stations. Now the BBC is aiming to compete against
CNN and Fox News on cable.
The BBC is prepared, it's reported, to spend close to a million dollars getting a foot in the market.
At the moment, BBC director of global news Richard Sambrook (pictured) told the New York Times, the United States is the only region in the world where BBC World is not available 24 hours a day.
the BBC is planning to rectify that — and in fact has already launched
a poster campaign in the US to make Americans more aware of what they
are missing. One big illustrated poster on Broadway in mid-town
Manhattan asks New Yorkers to decide which of two differing opinions
they agree with most – for example are immigrants "criminals" or "good
citizens."? Are US soldiers "liberators" or "occupiers"? Both hotly
debated issues in the US at the moment.
New Yorkers can vote by
cell-phone and the results, it's promised, will be displayed on the
billboard. And also widely publicized. The idea is to convey that the
BBC presents both sides of a story – and doesn't tell viewers what they
Although the BBC is well respected in the US, it
will be a big battle, it's conceded, to unseat the currently
well-established news channels. "It's hard to break habits when it
comes to watching news" said a spokesman for one of the companies
charged with promoting the new British invasion Coupled with the
introduction of a US edition of The Times, it could mean interesting journalistic times (and battles) ahead. As the New York Times
put it, "the British are coming again, this time not clad in red coats
or sporting Beatles haircuts but bearing cameras, microphones and
By coincidence Reuters has launched a similar
campaign in the US. It too has taken billboard space on Times Square in
mid-town Manhattan. Its ads also ask controversial questions which it
invites passers – by to answer on their cell phones. One relates to
bird flu, and portrays the image of a chicken with the question: Global
epidemic or Global Hysteria? The two campaigns , evidence of the new
push by British news organisations into the US market,have been
developed by different agencies. Neither – so far – is calling the
other a copy-cat.